Satire in the Age of Letters and Technology- more than just a pinch of it.
By Ramsha Alam
The National Advisory Council, under the chairpersonship of Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, forwarded a proposal to the Central Government regarding the Public Distribution System. The proposal stated that in rural areas, 10% (at most) be excludefrom PDS. Of the remaining 90%, priority category will comprise at least 46% and the rest will form the general category. In urban areas, at least half of the households will be covered by the PDS. Of this, at least 28% shall be in priority group.
The entitlements offered are rather ambitious, to say the least. Households in the ‘priority’ group are to get 35kg/month at Rs.3/2/1 for rice/wheat/millets respectively. Households in the ‘general’ category are to get 20kg/month at almost half of the minimum support price (MSP). The government had promised a National Food Security Act that will ensure ‘food security for all’- however the draft proposed by NAC is equivalent to ‘wrapping of an old book in a new cover.’ The draft promises 25Kgs of grain per month at Rs. 3/kg for BPL households which is not very different from the already existing policy.
It is amazing to note how the expert committee, headed by C. Rangarajan, chairman of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council, has concluded that the provisions envisaged by the NAC may have to be ‘calibrated’ due to non-availability of food grains while The Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices warned the government of the crisis the overflowing grains will lead to if the government didn’t come up with the plan to dispose off the stored grain. ‘Disposing off’ the stored grain is to be achieved by making grain availability data transparent, releasing the excess in the market and open it to timely exports.
India exported food grain at the rate of Rs. 5.45 per kilo while selling the same to us at Rs. 6.40. Says Zhavandia, a Vidarbha farmer. “We want to be born as European cows.” Meanwhile, in Khandwa, a district in Madhya Pradesh, food that is worm-eaten, full of dirt and used as animal feed is served to the poor. So much so for food security!
Our beloved Babu moshai a.k.a Pranab Mukherjee, had promised food security and inclusive growth in his budget speech last year, however, due to possibly a short term memory loss, he conveniently forgot about it while presenting the Union Budget on 28th February 2011. The budget came in the backdrop of an emerging global crisis, caused partly by extreme weather events in some major food producing countries including China, and partly by escalating petroleum price arising from the battle for democracy in the Middle East. It also came in the wake of continuing food inflation which has left millions battling hunger and poverty.
Maharashtra ended famine forever by passing an act that deleted the word ‘famine’ from all laws of the state. It did so by passing an Act in the Legislature that deleted the word famine from all laws of the state under “The Maharashtra Deletion Of The Term ‘Famine’ Act, 1963. Maybe the central government, NAC and other ‘enthusiastic activists’ of the Food Security Bill can learn from this. Just abolish the word hunger by law if you can’t fight it!